Category: Diary

Celebration of Human Rights

UN logoA Humanist contribution to an inter-faith Celebration of Human Rights hosted by the Ipswich & District Bahá’í­ community at Ipswich Central Library, 10 December 2010. The theme was Article 26:2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Spiritual Education”: Education shall be directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. It shall promote understanding, tolerance and friendship among all nations, racial or religious groups, and shall further the activities of the United Nations for the maintenance of peace.

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The Article we’re celebrating today refers to “Spiritual Education”. I have a problem with this, because I don’t know what “spiritual” means. I know what other people say it means, but there are several definitions, some of them religious, and I find them mostly too vague to agree with them. So, if you don’t mind, I’ll ignore that part of the Article and talk about the rest: about education, and about understanding and tolerance. These are things without which no civil society can function properly, and without which there is endless scope for disharmony and conflict.

Christmas with children, without hassle

This was an article in a newsletter from 2008 by Sophie Lovejoy, who has two young children. It provides ideas for parents with limited budgets who’d like to keep their spending under control, yet still have a good time.

Xmas cookingChristmas is invariably a challenge with small children, particularly if you aren’t Christian. For the past few years, my halcyon days of totally ignoring Christmas have been entirely forgotten. I got away with not celebrating when Tess was one, but as she turned two, I couldn’t hold out any longer. Once Toby came along, I had no choice but to rethink how I’d manage over the festive season. I work very hard in the run up to Christmas to keep the kids focused on the people they love, and who love them. Part of this is making almost all our gifts and cards, and I try to make something for each of the children too. I occasionally let the kids buy something very small, but usually my response when they ask is “Do you have any money? No? Well we’ll have to make something then.”

Ipswich Skeptics in the Pub – Open Talk Night – Music

We’re told:

In our last event before Christmas, the theme is Music. Mark Aaron will talk about online activism in the context of saving BBC 6 music, and John Benton will talk about common logical fallacies regarding hifi equipment.

You’ll find ISP in the green room at the back of McGinty’s.

Monthly meeting – The Geology of Suffolk

Member Colleen Nunn will be talking about geology. She says:

How much do you know about the ground beneath your feet and what it can tell us about about the geological history of Suffolk? Did you know, for example, that our county once had a climate like the present day Caribbean or that the River Thames once flowed through Suffolk? I will be exploring the rocks found here and demonstrating how they can reveal all sorts of clues as to how the landscape and climate have evolved through time.

There will be pictures and samples to see.

Faith in the Public Sphere – A Humanist Perspective

From a lunchtime seminar organised by the East of England Faiths Agency for Suffolk County Council Staff in Ipswich on 14 October 2010. The previous seminar was led by a local vicar and more seminars would be led by various faith representatives. My introduction was followed by a Q & A session.

I’m a Humanist. Humanism is a descriptive word applied retrospectively (from about the late 19th century) to a certain set of beliefs and values, free from religion. These beliefs and values are at least as old as recorded history.

Humanists accept naturalism (rather than supernaturalism) and we value scientific method as a means to gain knowledge. We accept that this life is the only one we have, and we think that morality arises out of human nature and culture. These ideas are a ‘permanent alternative’ that recur throughout time and place. They’ve been evident in Europe from the 6th century BCE to about 6th century CE, in China from the 6th century BCE onwards (the followers of Confucius were humanists), in India from the 6th century onwards, in the Arab world from about the 12th century, and in the Western world  from about the 17th century onwards.

Humanism isn’t a religion for atheists. It’s not equivalent to religion. It’s not a ‘faith’ – the word ‘faith’ means believing in something without evidence, which is anathema to a humanist. Humanists use reason to try to make sense of life and the world we live in, and if there’s something we don’t know or understand we’re content to admit that we don’t know.

Bye bye Claire

Claire RaynerClaire Rayner has died. A few Suffolk Humanists (including me) went to hear her speak at an Essex Humanists meeting in Chelmsford a few years ago, when her humour and warmth made a strong impression. I have good reason to identify with some of the things that Claire said, especially when she got cross about lazy journalists who wrote about people with cancer “losing their fight” – stuff and nonsense!

Anyhow, there are tributes aplenty on the web. Here are just three of them:

From the British Humanist Association

From the National Secular Society

From Baroness Helena Kennedy

And here’s Claire in her own words:

Her Humanist Hero, Miss Peach

How she coped with cancer

Post-Pope

The cats can relax. Now that the Pope’s gone home, I’ve stopped shouting at the TV. Who does he think he is, coming over here and telling us we’re “aggressive secularists”, and why does he imagine that the thousands of people who live here quite happily without religion have no morals? As for all that rubbish about atheists and the Nazis – he obviously reads the wrong history books.

I’ve complained to the BBC about the coverage – too much of it, too biased, too silly. I’m hoping that lots of other people did too, or they may not take much notice. They may not take much notice anyway. If that were the case, I might boycott BBC News, if it weren’t for the lovely Gavin Esler.

I wasn’t at the grammatically incorrect ‘Protest the Pope’ demonstration, but lots of people I know were, so there’s loads of stuff about it on the Internet.

If you didn’t find any of it, here’s some that’s worth reading…